In a rare move, former President Barack Obama made an endorsement in the St. Petersburg mayoral race. He threw his support behind current Mayor Rick Kriseman ahead of the August 29 primary election.
“As mayor of St. Petersburg, Rick Kriseman has taken on big challenges to move St. Pete forward,” Obama said in a news release. “From raising the minimum wage and fighting for equality, to bold leadership on climate change, Rick was a great ally on the priorities of my administration. I strongly endorse Rick Kriseman as the only choice for continued progress for St. Petersburg.”
Kriseman quickly issued thanks on social media, praising the former president for inspiring his city and saying he was humbled by the endorsement.
The mayor’s race is supposed to be nonpartisan, but that’s been far from the case in St. Petersburg. The bickering between Kriseman, a Democrat, and his main opponent, Republican former Mayor Rick Baker, has taken center stage in this race.
Political reporter William March says seeing party politics on the local level is part of a growing trend.
"Mayors’ offices in big cities have become major positions on the bench for recruiting for statewide or higher level candidates,” March said. “So to the Democrats, it's very important to hold a mayor's office in St. Petersburg."
But Peter Schorsch, political consultant and publisher of SaintPetersBlog points out an interesting contradiction in this race.
“A guy like Rick Baker, a staunch Republican, is polling ahead of the staunch Obama-supporting Democrat with black voters,” he said.
Schorsch wrote in SaintPetersBlog Friday that he expects Obama's endorsement to help Kriseman with black voters and could be what prevents frontrunner Rick Baker from getting more than half the vote in the primary.
That would mean the top two of the six current candidates – likely Baker and Kriseman – would compete in a runoff election in November.